Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sunday 11th January 2009

A Sad Day

I wasn't very happy today. I had to take my daughter back to University at Falmouth in Cornwall. I'd got used to having her around home again and brightening up the place even more! I dropped Julia off at work, then picked up my mate Tom and returned home. Eventually Rebecca was ready to leave. The 3 of us drove down to Falmouth, seeing a Raven near Okehampton, the only notable bird sighting on the journey down. It was cloudy and breezy, but at least it stayed dry. I pulled the car over at Fraddon for a much-wanted cup of coffee, then carried on to Penryn. We all unpacked Rebecca's kit into her flat and I made the usual sad goodbyes'. Always one to look on the cheerful side of life, I then put myself into full birding mode!
With the wind picking up somewhat, we drove on to Helston, where we stopped by the boating lake. There were the usual bread-throwing members of the public there, and of course, the wildfowl and gulls were going mad, fighting over that next juicy crust! Coot, Tufted Ducks and Mallard were in turmoil, and clusters of noisy gulls fought each other for food. Amongst this mad throng, we picked out a first-winter Ring-billed Gull, my first for a couple of years or so. Eventually the bread-throwers disappeared and things settled down. This resulted in the Ring-billed loitering on the path by the side of the lake. This gave super views and was a new bird for Tom. Next, we made the short hop over to the delights of the local sewage works! A few Chiffchaffs were foraging around in the bottom of the perimeter hedge, along with some tits, including several Long-tailed. A 'Siberian' Chiffchaff was glimpsed between the settling beds and the perimeter fence, but with the high wind, most of the Chiffs' were keeping low down. Whether this form of Chiffchaff will ever officially gain full-species status, is debatable! However, I seem to see this form on a fairly regular basis nowadays. It is quite distinctive, and has a different call to Common Chiffchaff.
With time ticking on, we decided to make our way to the Zennor area, to try and see our main target of the day. We found a convenient pull-in, hastily consumed some food (I was starving by then!), donned our birding gear and trudged up towards Sperris Quoit, the spot where the Snowy Owl has been seen most regularly. Regrettably, someone forgot to tell the owl to put in an appearance today, and we spent a fruitless time trudging over the moorland. No doubt, it will be seen again tomorrow! Luckily I had seen this species before, albeit 29 years ago, but it would have been a lifer for Tom. A Buzzard was seen sat on a rock, and 5 Common Snipe flew past, but that was it. Several other birders were also wandering aimlessly around, all to no avail. With the afternoon ticking on, we decided to cut our losses and head down to Marazion. We took the road over Trewey Common, where I spotted a female Merlin, which eventually settled on a fencepost. We arrived at Marazion, but the gale had got worse, and combined with the high tide, sent plumes of salt-spray over the seawall. There were loads of gulls feeding on the beach edge, picking up all those morsels pounded on to the beach by the weather. Lots of Sanderling were running around, doing the same. A quick look at the marsh produced nothing of note, but a distant Peregrine. With the conditions more suited to windfarming, we called it a day, and headed back up the A30.
With the light rapidly fading, I spotted a Barn Owl quartering the roadside fields at Zelah. I pulled over on to the grass verge as soon as I could, but Tom didn't get on to the bird, which was rather a pity. We then trundled back along the A30 to Exeter, and finally down the A376 to home.
Yearticks in order today: Tufted Duck, Ring-billed Gull, Siberian Chiffchaff, Merlin, Peregrine, Barn Owl.

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